Recently, I was having a bit of a chat with Kathryn Barkla, our Client Relationship Manager.

We had a fantastic talk on the The Bookkeepers’ Voice Podcast, but there was one thought in particular that I really wanted to share with you: “If we don’t start sharing and looking out for others, then our industry will die”.

Wow! What a statement right? When she said it, it hit me right in the HEART..

She is absolutely right and that’s exactly what I wanted to look at today.

Because, if we’re being honest here, we don’t work in the most glamorous industry around, do we? We’re not exactly blinding people with the gloss of our jobs, or making everyone wish they worked in the same industry.

But here’s the thing; we have a really important job.

Okay, sure, it might not be glamorous, but it is absolutely vital. With the growing trend of business outsourcing their needs online, keeping the Bookkeeping Industry alive is more important than ever!

Here’s the problem; we’re not doing much to keep the industry alive! That’s a pretty scary thought, don’t you think?

New bookkeepers looking to break into the industry can be met with many, many roadblocks. Firstly, you need to find a BAS Agent to sign off on your work, while also finding a company to work for that accepts you aren’t ‘fully qualified’. That can be quite a mission when you’re just starting out.

Yikes! It makes me glad I’m not new to the industry anymore.

 

So…Why do we have this shortage anyway?

Okay, now that we’ve covered the gloomy predictions (I think I need a cup of tea!), let’s look at WHY we have such a shortage of qualified bookkeepers and BAS Agents who are willing to help out.

 

It seems to me like there are a number of factors limiting us:

  1. The Fear Factor: We are worried about losing clients
  2. The ‘Old School’ Factor: We have our traditional ways of doing things
  3. The Time Factor: We are busy with our own businesses

These are all incredibly valid reasons to hesitate when it comes to mentoring new bookkeepers. I mean, we have to protect our own first, right?

Right! But protecting our own also means protecting the industry we work in. If we don’t encourage new, passionate people to join us, then we’re going to lose our industry to offshoring.

Well…that’s certainly a lot to think about, so at this point, you might be looking for solutions. Or, at least, my humble opinion on the matter!

Well, I don’t think that we can tackle this problem unless we fully understand it. There are three reasons we hesitate, so we’ll dive right into each of these and develop them a little more fully.

Then, after each one, we’ll take a look at what we can do about this mess. Hopefully, that sounds good to you!

 

The fear factor

Okay, this is a big one! Most bookkeepers in Australia have probably felt an underlying fear about the stability of their jobs. With some bookkeepers (and many accountants) beginning to outsource labour offshore? And look at all the technological changes coming through all the time.

This is especially relevant with the changing industry demographic.

While many bookkeepers are in the 44-55 age bracket, this is changing fast. Millennials are entering the industry, starting businesses, and bringing with them a love for technology and a work-from-anywhere lifestyle.

Most millennial business owners are capable of working and collaborating online, learning new software such as Xero and are part of the global community (which means they have no problems hiring offshore, in fact, many of them LOVE working alongside people of different cultures).

While this all seems like positive growth, it can seem desperate and devastating for the Australian bookkeeping industry. How do you even begin to compete with that kind of change?

It seems hopeless, right?

Well, don’t go selling your business just yet. Yes, it might seem impossible, but there is absolutely hope for the industry.

 

The solution

Even if it seems all doom and gloom, I promise you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Think about it! Bookkeepers hold skills and training that is absolutely essential to business success. Not only that, but there are skills that are really hard to replace.

After all, who knows Australian laws better than an Australian bookkeeper? Additionally, I bet you are great at communicating with clients and managing your time, right? This is a huge selling point and is one of the reasons that the industry is thriving despite offshore threats.

Phew! Does anyone else need a sit-down after all of that?

Now that we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief, there are a few things left to consider.

We need to ask ourselves, “Ok, well what does the future of the bookkeeping industry actually look like? How can we support the younger people coming through and make sure they thrive?”

How can we support people who are new to the industry? Us bookkeepers are notorious for being great with details, and not as great with the big picture. Does that sound familiar? I mean, I’m absolutely guilty of that!

There is a problem with that, though: The big picture is what helps the industry grow. Adapting to new business and modifying our interactions is absolutely essential to healthy industry growth.

Our role in this is bigger than our own business. If we can help new people entering the industry, then we can help our industry grow, survive and thrive!

By accepting the privilege of mentoring new bookkeepers, we are playing an integral part of helping our industry thrive.

And I, for one, think that is an worthwhile thing to be a part of.

 

The ‘old school’ factor

Oh, this is a bit of a tricky one to navigate. And let me add this little ‘disclaimer’ here right now. When I say ‘old school’ I DON’T mean YOU are old.

Heck, I’m in the ‘old school’ myself. And I’m definitely NOT old 😛

What I mean when I use this term is; bookkeepers who have been around since GST came in, or before. Bookkeepers who have seen how things USED to be done before all the tech rolled in.

Let’s be honest; change can be hard to face, right? If you’ve been in the industry for a long time, you’ve probably seen your fair share of changes happen.

Sometimes, it’s easy to adapt and sometimes it is easier to resist.

The bookkeeping industry goes through many changes, especially with the new software that is released (constantly!). New software is great, as it makes it easier to go through the process (and usually makes it easier for our clients too!). On the flip side? It requires new skills and a whole new learning curve every time we adapt a new software or way of doing things

Often, people who have spent years in the industry are settled in their ways and aren’t willing to change. This can be a problem for millennials who are looking to learn the latest software and to work from home. This can create an impasse between the two groups, which is a huge problem for mentoring and working together.  

The solution

The solution to this one is simple: Learn from each other! Upcoming bookkeepers need the knowledge of those who have been in the industry for decades and have quality experience.  This is common knowledge, of course, which is why we have mentors.

But something that we don’t often talk about? How the older generations can learn so much from new bookkeepers about the latest technologies and how the industry is adapting!

We can always learn something new. We can always adapt and improve ourselves, no matter how much experience we have. A willingness to learn (on both sides!) is absolutely invaluable.

Knowledge is power and shared knowledge even better!

 

The time factors

So, what about the final roadblock? Time.

We never seem to have enough time, do we? Our lives are busy. We feel like our days are bursting with commitments and everything that we have to do. How can we possibly dedicate time to mentoring someone?

This is something I have struggled with personally. Running a business, mentoring others, on top of family commitments can feel overwhelming at times! I’m sure you’ve all felt the stress of a bursting schedule at some point, right?

The thing is, it all comes down to prioritizing the things that you really value. The growth of the industry is something that most of us value very highly. Without the industry, we wouldn’t have our jobs, after all!

I think many people get overwhelmed about how much time they assume mentoring will take. It can be helpful to think of it like a donation. No one expects you to donate 100% of your income – or even 50%. But if you can put aside 10% of your income to a good cause, that’s fantastic!

It’s the same with your time. If you can put aside even 5% or 10% of your weekly time to invest in the growth of a new person coming into the industry, then you’re making the industry better for everybody else.

 

The solution

We touched on the solution above, but sometimes it’s not that simple! How do you know how much time you can afford to donate, anyway?

Well, I have fantastic news! Kathryn has generously offered to provide free planning lessons later in the year with a helpful tool that offers a high-level overview of your quarter. It works by breaking it all down and reviewing what you did in the past.

 

You’ll learn a number of valuable things:

  • How great did I do last year?
  • What things weren’t so great?
  • How was my social media?
  • Did I have enough of a work/life balance?
  • Do I have enough clients?
  • Are they the right clients?

It’s about reviewing the year that was, writing a plan, then moving forward. This way, you can plan for the future in a healthy, productive way that will help you grow your business!

Sounds like a win-win to me. Thank you, Kathryn!

Are you interested in this session? If so, please post in The Savvy Bookkeeper Facebook group and TAG Kathryn. If you don’t let us know you want this, then we might not run it! So let us know 🙂

 

Over to you…

So…what is the key message? Share your knowledge and encourage others!

Sharing knowledge is key to growing our industry and ascending to greatness and it’s a powerful tool. After all, what’s the point in growing our businesses if we let the industry crumble?

What do you think? Are there any industries you’d consider sourcing offshore? Would you consider being a mentor in the future?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stay savvy,

Amy 🙂

Ps. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out the full episode on  The Bookkeepers’ Voice Podcast! And please leave us a review if you love the episode.